At the supermarket today, I found a phoenix. It lay there plucked like any other bird. Larger than a chicken, more slender than a goose, it was on sale. I don’t usually buy what I don’t know, but I was curious.
I removed a small bag tucked deep inside it containing its head, claws, heart, liver and kidneys, which I placed in a pot to boil into stock. I added a bay leaf, salt, pepper.
The bird’s body I carefully clipped into four. The breast meat was lean, the thighs plump, the wings slender. I added the stock and some sweet paprika, and let the bird simmer for almost two hours. It was, after all, a fairly old bird.
Some say that the phoenix lives for 1,400 years before it can be reborn. There don’t always have to be ashes. It can just decompose. There’d been no age on the label and no use-by date, which probably accounted for the sale. I wondered how it would taste. Whether I should invite others to share my meal. What if I imploded? Or simply soared? Would there be an outbreak of salmonella? Salmonella in Phoenix? I giggled. The bird was getting to me.
I laid the drumsticks and wings out on a platter surrounding the tender pieces of breast. Did I dare taste? Would it not kill me? Or would it allow me to rise above my anxiety, and let me soar with a paprika kick? I pushed at the breast meat and uncovered a wishbone; it glowed with a come-hither look. Come ride me, it said.
I brought the white bone to my lips and scraped off clinging slivers of flesh with my teeth. Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply. Then I took off.